The CAGED system is a method for navigating the guitar fretboard. It’s based on the open chords C, A, G, E, and D. The method is pretty simple:

  1. Fret an open chord (C, A, G, E, or D). Be sure you know where the roots are and what finger is playing a root. Call the finger playing the root the root finger.
  2. Rearrange your fingers to keep your 1st finger free.
  3. Place your 1st finger behind the nut to ‘bar the open strings’. You now have a CAGED grip. If you made a C chord, it’s a C grip. If you made an E chord, it’s an E grip. Etc.
  4. Slide the entire grip up the neck, including your 1st finger. Whatever note your root finger is on defines the chord.
  5. Example:
    1. Make an open E chord and rearrange your fingers to make a CAGED grip.
    2. Slide the chord up 4 frets so that your 1st finger is at fret 4 and frets the note G# at fret 4 of string 6.
    3. You are now playing a G# chord (your root finger is on the note G#) using the E grip. It’s not an E chord! It’s a G# chord. It uses the CAGED E grip.

The grips are numbered. The C-grip is Pattern 1, A-grip is Pattern 2, G-grip is Pattern 3, E-grip is Pattern 4, and D-grip is Pattern 5. Referring to them by pattern number is less confusing than using a letter number.

In our lessons, you’ll learn to navigate the guitar fretboard using the CAGED system from the ground up. We’ll start with major triad chord shapes, expand those to three-note major triad arpeggio shapes, expand those to five-note major pentatonic shapes, and expand those to full seven-note major scale shapes. Each level incorporates two distinct parts: learning the shapes and then using them to make music. Once you master the major shapes, we’ll move to minor shapes and then to 7th chords.